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Nagin convicted of trading contracts during mayoral term

Bitten by the graft bug
Bitten by the graft bug
Photo by Chris McKay

Former New Orleans mayor C. Ray Nagin, was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison on Wednesday on charges of corruption during his term in office. Nagin, a cult hero in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, but whose popularity later eroded, served from 2002 to 2010. He was arrested, then indicted, on January 2013.

His trial involved allegations of trading city contracts and favors for cash and kickbacks. Found guilty on 20 counts of the 21 charged, Mr. Nagin's sentence was lighter than the recommended 15 years, but the judge in the case, Ginger Berrigan, who presides over the U.S. Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, noted in her transcript statements that the evidence failed to show the former mayor had organized or been the leader of a corruption scheme.

The judge said Nagin claimed "a much smaller share of the profits" than any other members of the group who benefited from the illegal deal, that his leadership during the storm was much needed, but that it had also been lagging; she cited his age and that he was not a danger to the public. Nagin maintains his innocence and did not offer any public apology such as ensued after his "chocolate city" gaffe in 2006, a year after the troubled rebuilding of his ravished city began. Nagin received some backlash for those past statements, and made note of it to the PBS Newshour, when as mayor he was still a fresh figure in the Democratic Party.

"I trust that God's going to work all this out," he was quoted by the Associated Press

Prosecutors reserve the right to appeal the lighter sentence.

Michael Nutter, the current mayor of Philadelphia, served contemporaneously with Nagin during the last three years of Nagin's term. Both men belonged to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, for which Nutter stood as President from 2012 to 13. City Hall had no comment when asked about the Nagin guilty verdict prior to publication.